Rene (a physician) and Kathy (a Registered Nurse and Geriatric Care Manager) are a husband and wife duo from California who volunteered on the World Endeavors Healthcare program in Nepal.
What were your first impressions of Nepal?
Our first impression of Nepal was “what were we thinking?” and at times that never changed. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, but it is also a forgotten country. Many people who we told about our experience asked us why we picked Nepal to volunteer. I don’t really know why we picked Nepal, but once we were there we knew why Nepal picked us.
Our impression of the Nepali people who we cared for in the clinic is one of amazing, strong and poor people, who have hope and light in their eyes despite all of the hardships in their lives.
In the valley the daily life begins with water, gathering water at the well, bringing it home, boiling it, bathing in it and watering their crops with it. Electricity is scarce, but water is abundant and life revolves around it.
Our final impression of Nepal was one of a sadness for the conditions under which they live, but one of hope because we know that with guidance the dedicated people can improve their living conditions. We also knew that we would be back because Nepal and its people are part of us now.
What was your volunteer project like
We were sent to work as health care volunteers in Pokhara, Nepal. We went to a small clinic that is located in a village on the outskirts of the larger city of Pokhara. The clinic is a building that was built to be a hospital, but does not have the funding for a working proper hospital. The clinic is functioning as an office for two doctors. They provide simple x-rays, ultrasound, lab and pharmacy. They are funded by the government and accept whatever pay the patients can give them. The doctors examine patients and send them off for x-rays or blood work. They have one tech who does both jobs. The tech also extracted a tooth from a patient! Our role was to assist the physicians.
What was a typical day like for you in Nepal?
We woke up early and had tea and either a biscuit or piece of bread with sugarcane syrup. After a quick wash-up in the bathroom we dressed and headed out for work. We walked to the bus stop, which was an area at the center of a part of town where the local buses gather to pick up passengers. The bus ride was an experience in and of itself and every day was interesting. Once at the hospital we assisted the physicians with anything that they needed. The Nepalese eat two meals a day, one at 10 am, and one at about 8 pm. We took the bus home, and often the host family would have a snack for us of either a Nepali sweet or fruit. Dinner was at 8 pm (the typical meal of dhal bhat) and then it was bedtime. On our days off we hiked to the temples and monasteries at dawn and spent the afternoon sightseeing in the town.
How were your living arrangements?
We had two different host families. The first family consisted of a father and mother and their three grown children. They belonged to the Brahmin sect and were local land owners. They also had three buffalo, which is a status symbol in Nepal. Their youngest son lived at home and was unmarried. He spoke good English and ended up being our tour guide while we were there. Their other son and daughter were both married and had children. They lived at the home some of the time and were there when we were staying with the family.
Our second host family consisted of a young man and his wife and two children. They lived in a small village in the valley. Their eldest daughter lived with the wife’s mother and father in Pokhara because the couple was so busy with school and the baby that they needed some help with their family.
Both families were amazing and kind people. We loved both of them and what we gained is more than I could begin to put into words.
What advice would you give to someone volunteering in Nepal?
Read books about the country. I read Little Princes by Conor Grennan, which is a book that was written by a young man who volunteered in a Nepali Orphanage. Be open-minded and try to learn as much as you can about the culture before you go. Bring a reading light because the electricity goes off for up to 14 hours a day and you will want to relax and read. Know that you will never have a chance to fully know what you are getting yourself into, but just go with the flow and great things will happen.
How has this experience impacted you?
Well, when I go out to dinner I think about how that money could be used for a child’s education, or to buy a computer for the school. I look at the elderly in this country and think about how lucky they (and all of us) are for having our government support the poor and the seniors. My priorities are still the same, God, family, friends, work, and now our continuing work in Nepal.
Why did you choose World Endeavors?
We choose WE because they offered a more flexible program for us. We needed to go at a specific time and the time did not work with many of the organized “tour/aid” groups. We also could only be gone for two and a half weeks and most groups were for longer times.
World Endeavors was very easy to work with and we always felt supported, both at home and abroad. I would highly recommend them.